Pending legislation before the New Jersey Assembly and Senate is a continuous concern for the attorneys at the law firm of Maynard & Sumner, LLC –particularly bills that may affect Megan’s Law registrants. Two bills have recently gained traction, both of which have been reported on by the New Jersey Senate Law and Public Safety Committee in recent weeks: S454 and S2724.
Harsher consequences for repeat sex offenders
S454: Increase mandatory minimum term of imprisonment for certain repeat sex offenders.
Introduced by Senator Madden of the fourth district (Camden and Gloucester Counties) in 2014, S454 seeks to change the guidelines for imposing a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment. Currently, an offender who is convicted of a second or subsequent offense under 2C:14-2 (Sexual Assault), 2C:14-3 (Criminal Sexual Contact), or 2C:14-4 (Lewdness) shall be sentenced to a mandatory minimum sentence of five (5) years in a state prison. This bill seeks to alter the mandatory minimum calculation by requiring an offender to serve 85% of his sentence prior to becoming eligible for parole.
In addition, judges will be encouraged to sentence repeat sex offenders to the maximum allowable sentence, unless the maximum sentence would create a serious injustice to the offender or a plea agreement was reach between the offender and the prosecution, and the court finds it in the best interest of the victim to sentence the offender to a lesser term of incarceration. The Attorney General Office will be designated with the task of drafting the sentencing procedures and guidelines if this bill is passed.
S2724: Establishes a “Romeo and Juliet” exception to Megan’s Law for certain youthful offenders.
Sex offender registration for juveniles has always been a contentious issue in the State of New Jersey. On October 19, 2015, the NJ Senate Law and Public Safety Committee reportedly favorably on a bill that seeks to create three (3) registration exceptions for certain juvenile sex offenders:
- The offense involved no more than one victim;
- The defendant was no more than five years older than the victim; or
- The victim assented to the commission of the offense, but due to age, was not legally capable of providing consent.
These exceptions would only apply to juvenile sex offenders who are adjudicated delinquent of one of the following two offenses:
- Second-degree Sexual Assault, and
- Fourth-degree Criminal Sexual Contact, in which the victim was between the ages of 13 and 16, and the offender was at least four years older than the victim.
The bill also seeks to create a Megan’s Law registration exception for older teens, between the age of 17 and 18, who are convicted of sexual assault in connection with having a consensual sexual relationship with a victim as young as 13 years old.